‘There is a lack of conscience’

A songwriter, lyricist and composer, Giorgos Andreou ranks as an artist who has added fresh elements to Greek music, be it laiko (popular Greek), ethnic, electric sound or loops. A trained musician, Andreou spent his youth playing with rock bands and later wrote some of the country’s biggest hits of the past 15 years, sung mostly by numerous female singers – Eleni Vitali, Tania Tsanaklidou and Eleni Tsaligopoulou, to name but a few. For his latest batch of material, released on a new album titled «Mystirio Treno» (Mystery Train), Andreou has entrusted a male vocalist, Christos Thivaios, with his work. Andreou wrote all the music and most of the lyrics. Words for three songs were provided by Odysseas Ioannou, Poly Kyriakou and Thivaios, the vocalist. In another new project, touring this summer, Andreou wrote the music for the staging of Federico Garcia Lorca’s «Love of Don Perlimplin and Belissa in his Garden,» directed by Theodoris Gonis for the Agrinion Municipal Theater. Andreou is also preparing new music to be performed in Patras this October as part of the city’s yearlong European Cultural Capital agenda. «I don’t make albums often,» Andreou told Kathimerini in an interview. «Most of my albums feature female vocalists. I consider them to be more significant than male singers. It’s that two-natured aspect concerning mother and lover, plus the bodily element that produces unrivaled brightness and power. Because I’d been writing mainly for women, material with a male mentality had built up within me. At some point, this manly persona began to seek expression. [Christos] Thivaios is a friend, a fiery singer and gifted songwriter who sung my songs for men.»  How do you judge a singer? From how they are able to function physically with demanding material. For me there are two types of singers, those that are like jukeboxes – you insert the coins and listen to the music playing through the speakers – and those that become the music themselves. Is there a shortage of worthy male singers? Good singers exist, but there is a lack of conscience. It explains why I opted for Thivaios. Christos [Thivaios], [Lavrentis] Maheritsas, [Panos] Katsimichas and [Nikos] Portokaloglou are people with education and depth. When you provide them with a song, they know where it’s coming from; they feel it; they don’t simply execute it. Today’s singers are trapped in career-related stereotypes. They ask you to take along 19 songs to choose one they approve of. I struggle for a good song. Today’s male singer, unfortunately, is more along the lines of [Tolis] Voskopoulos than [Grigoris] Bithikotsis… it’s the establishment of nouveau-riche ways expressed through the softened man who cries and complains about being abandoned by the erotic subject of his desire. It’s clear that there’s a problem in the music industry. Are there no artists able to break away, or conditions or fans that can inspire this? The music industry has a problem as a whole. The CD format is dying. In the future, we’ll be using one song but won’t be buying the entire product as we do now. The philosophy is changing. There’s something unprecedented happening in Greece now – the sacrilege and vulgarization of an artistic past through the offerings of premium CDs. To prove that they are posting profits, employees at multinationals, disinterested in anything deeper, have sold entire catalogs and the history of Greek music at outrageously low prices. On the other hand, we’ve got an unbelievable situation of integration in television and the production side. TV channels that own record companies and TV game shows that have ties with record companies lead to contracts through which artists are manufactured. This Third World-type management has destroyed the health of the music industry. The biggest problem being faced, however, is that truly talented artists are unable to surface. Who’s going to publish their work? Who’s going to encourage them? Nobody. We have a problem, then, as reality shows are a one-way street in musical expression. Is this having an affect on the club circuit? Like the music industry, the club circuit is also dying. A restructuring of the live-music circuit is needed. No matter how good-natured you are, the current style of clubs cannot be maintained. People are seeking unplugged performances and small venues because they want to rediscover the mechanics behind music. Special effects and monstrous sound systems are detrimental to music. All this is creating panic for singers, who, in their effort to regain the fans they’ve lost, often make fools of themselves. This is an unpleasant truth. Talented singers who have dominated the Greek scene over the past 30 years are rarely self-critical. With the exception of [Haris] Alexiou and [Tania] Tsanaklidou, who treats herself harshly, self-criticism, renewal and inspiration are lacking. The restlessness is all about power roles. Singers have turned into populist politicians. New faces are needed. Do the songwriters share this same anxiety for a share of the pie? They’re less responsible for this musical mess than others. The good songs we’ve had over the past decade were written by Portocaloglou, Katsimichas, Maheritsas, [Socrates] Malamas, [Pantelis] Thalassinos, [Fivos] Delivorrias and [Stamos] Semsis. They’ve insisted on their own musical ideas without trying out the effectiveness of their work beyond their personal worlds…

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